Poker is a great way to have fun and connect with friends new and old. While there are ample resources on how to succeed in poker, winning doesn’t necessarily translate into the best in-person poker experience. Even competitive players might be missing out on ways to better enjoy their time at the table. Here are seven tips to make sure you get the most out of your next poker game.
1. Eat before you arrive
If you’re playing in a poker tournament, the opportunities to take a break from the game without forfeiting chips will be limited. COVID-19 has put a damper on the opportunities to dine at or near the table, so be sure you have had a big enough meal prior to the game to give your brain the energy to make great decisions.
2. The people make the game
The players at the table set the tone for how casual or serious the game will be. Play with people you want to talk to, compete with, and learn from. If you’re looking to network at the poker table, invite a professional connection to a game you’re playing in.
There are three popular forms of live poker: public tournaments, public ring games, and private ring games.
- Tournaments will give you a chance to play with dozens of players as tables combine, but your seat will be picked for you.
- Public ring games give you agency over what table you choose, but there can be pressure to act quickly.
- Private games are usually more relaxed and allow you to pick your seat, however they can be hard to find if you and your friends are new to poker.
Our advice? Improve your poker skills with events to get comfortable with poker and make friends with other women in poker. You’ll get a sense of which kind of game you like, and you can enjoy the social side of the game from the comfort of your home.
3. Talk about your passions
Poker is going to be a subject a lot of your tablemates will be passionate about, but there is nuance to how you discuss the game while playing. Refrain from talking about the hand in progress, and don’t belittle anyone’s abilities or choices. You’ll be able to tell whether someone is excited to talk about their thought process in a hand or is just being polite. Respect every player’s boundaries and empower them to speak about what gets them fired up in the morning.
Don’t feel like you have to talk about poker at the table just because you’re playing cards. Instead, learn what your tablemates are passionate about. One reason why poker is so special is that it draws individuals from all walks of life. Take advantage of the chance to get to know people.
4. Remove the pressure to win every time
A competitive spirit is a great quality for poker players. It’s natural to want to win, but it is completely unproductive to lose sleep over losses or wrong decisions. Professional players only win about 60% of the time they sit down at a ring game and only 15% to 20% of the time they play tournaments.
Occasional short term losses are inevitable since there is an element of luck in poker. Instead of coming to the game with a goal to win X number of chips, focus on what you can control. Try out a new play during your session. It will give you the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t.
Either way, don’t sweat the results. You can always follow up with a private poker lesson to analyze the hands you played and learn from them.
5. Enjoy the logic and creativity of reads
At poker’s highest level, each player is playing as close to mathematically perfect poker as possible. But for 99% of poker players, the thrill of the game is in figuring out creative adjustments to their opponents’ game plan.
Once you’ve been at the table for a while, you’ll notice certain stylistic differences between the participants. The player on your right has a strong hand whenever she bets, while the player on your left bluffs at every possible opportunity. Reading your opponents to augment your game plan is one of the most satisfying techniques in poker. Even if the cards don’t fall your way, you can enjoy the psychological game of reading and countering your tablemates.
6. Have a book in your back pocket
If you’re playing in a public venue, it never hurts to bring a book. You might have to wait an hour before your name is called, and you might feel like keeping your brain stimulated between hands if the people at your table don’t talk very much.
Being on your phone is fine, but some rooms have rules against bringing them out at the table. A phone or tablet also might distract you when it’s your turn or come across as rude, particularly if you use headphones. Books spark conversations, and it’s no inconvenience to bring a book, even if you never pull it out of your bag.
7. Leave the table when the game gets stale
Just like how it can be unproductive to think you should stay until you win a certain amount, there’s no quota of hours you have to play before you leave. Don’t think of your commuting time or any lost chips as sunk costs. Listen to yourself and take a break when you aren’t enjoying the game. Switch tables or take a walk for a few minutes to shake things up. It’s also completely valid to not feel like playing some days. Poker’s not going anywhere. You’ll avoid burnout and enjoy the game more the next time you play by calling it an early night when the game gets stale.
Are you interested in learning more about poker and meeting other women who play poker for fun? Sign up for Poker Power’s community poker lessons to discover how poker can be more than a pastime. We teach a transferable skill set of poker tools to help women grow personally and professionally. Take your seat at the table and discover the power of poker.